House Democrats have formally demanded Donald Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service, marking a major bid to obtain information about the president’s finances and business dealings.
Richard Neal, the chairman of the House ways and means committee, issued the request on Wednesday evening, stating: “It is critical to ensure the accountability of our government and elected officials.”
The Democratic-led committee is seeking Trump’s tax returns from 2013 to 2018.
“We have completed the necessary groundwork for a request of this magnitude and I am certain we are within our legitimate legislative, legal, and oversight rights,” Neal wrote.
This request is about policy, not politics; my preparations were made on my own track and timeline, entirely independent of other activities in Congress and the administration,” he added.
“My actions reflect an abiding reverence for our democracy and our institutions, and are in no way based on emotion of the moment or partisanship. I trust that in this spirit, the IRS will comply with Federal law and furnish me with the requested documents in a timely manner.”
Trump refused to release his tax returns in the 2016 campaign – breaking with a nearly 40-year precedent set by major-party presidential candidates.
Responding to the Democrats’ request on Wednesday, Trump reiterated his longstanding claim that he cannot make the tax returns public because he is under audit.
“We are under audit, despite what people said, and working that out – I’m always under audit, it seems, but I’ve been under audit for many years because the numbers are big, and I guess when you have a name, you’re audited,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“But until such time as I’m not under audit, I would not be inclined to [release the returns],” he added.
The IRS has said that audits do not preclude people from releasing their tax returns.
And in testimony before Capitol Hill last month, Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, cast doubt on whether the president was, in fact, under audit as he claimed.Cohen suggested Trump did not wish to release his tax returns because the ensuing public scrutiny would lead to an audit and force him to incur tax penalties. He also alleged that Trump inflated his assets to banks and insurance companies and implicated his former boss in tax and insurance fraud.
Democrats on the ways and means committee said they were concerned with the president’s compliance with federal tax laws, as well as whether he or his family personally benefited from the tax overhaul passed by Republicans and signed by Trump in 2017.
Democrats also believe Trump’s financial records could shed more light on his business dealings overseas and whether the president has violated the US constitution by receiving benefits from foreign countries without congressional approval.
“The American people deserve to know that their elected officials are acting in the public’s best interest, not their own self-interest,” said Dan Kildee, a congressman from Michigan who sits on the committee.
“The president is the only person who can sign bills into law, and the public deserves to know whether the president’s personal financial interests affect his public decision-making.”